Pussy Riot members freed from prison

Maria Alyokhina, a member of the Russian political punk band Pussy Riot, was released from prison on December 23rd, and her band mate Nadezhda Tolokonnikova was released hours later, both granted amnesty with a bill passed by the Russian parliament.

The pair and Yekaterina Samutsevich, along with other Pussy Riot members, performed what they called a “punk prayer” at a church in Moscow in February 2012, to protest Russian president Vladimir Putin. They were arrested, charged with hooliganism, and eventually thrown in prison. Samutsevich had her sentence suspended earlier in the year, but the amnesty move is widely regarded as an attempt by the Kremlin to improve its image ahead of the February 2014 Olympics in Sochi in Russia.

The band continues to show how bad ass they are. The Guardian reported that Tolokonnikova shouted “Russia without Putin,” after she was released from prison, and Alyokhina, speaking about her grant of amnesty, said, “If I had a chance to turn it down, I would have done it, no doubt about that. This is not an amnesty. This is a hoax and a PR move.”

Amnesty International, which began organizing for Pussy Riot’s release soon after the band was arrested, said in a December 23 statement, “The release of businessman Mikhail Khodorkovski, the Pussy Riot singers Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and a handful of Bolotnaya case detainees should not been seen as a benign act of clemency, but a politically expedient move in the run up to the Sochi Olympics.”

Amnesty had been getting musicians and bands involved in raising awareness on the issue of Pussy Riot’s imprisonment. The group organized a solidarity concert in front of the Russian Embassy that we previously reported on, for example. Another action was coordinating an open letter calling for Pussy Riot’s release, signed on to by over 100 musicians, including some punk and metal acts like Anti-Flag, Arch Enemy, Billy Bragg, Björk, The Clash, Thurston Moore, Ozzy Osbourne, and Rise Against.

Speaking via email, senior director of communications for Amnesty International USA, Carol Gregory, explains, “Since our founding, Amnesty International has understood the power of song and the written word to expose and stop human rights injustices. Today the world’s top musicians continue to be a vital part of our movement by lending their voice and song in protest.”

Amnesty recently released hefty DVD and CD sets highlighting its human rights concerts, but the group isn’t stopping there, as the organization will announce its next music initiative sometime in 2014. “We will be reaching a new generation of human rights activists,” Gregory says.

For more info on Pussy Riot:
Free Pussy Riot
Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer HBO documentary

For more on Amnesty International, visit the U.S. website.

Photo: from online search

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